Keeping Students Safe

By John R. Ritter and Jonathan Fox


Broward County Public Schools, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, has stepped up its efforts to safeguard some 271,000 students and 41,000 employees. The district applied for and received two $500,000 grants under the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools program. Tapping those funds and its own resources, the district has established a comprehensive safety and security program that includes disaster and emergency preparedness, staff training and education, close liaison with local police and fire departments, and a visitor management system.

The visitor management system, called the Security Tracking and Response (STAR) System enables Broward County Public Schools to quickly and effectively screen vendor and contractor personnel, volunteers, and others coming into schools. The system will enable all schools to share information in real time, so that a visitor identified as a threat by one school based on court records or other resources will be instantly identified at other schools in the district. It also lets the school keep track of anyone authorized to pick up a child.

The most difficult task in setting up the network was bringing together a novel idea and a disparate team, say those who headed the effort. The system’s rollout revealed they keyed in on three vital concepts: commitment, communication, and consistency.

John R. Ritter is the South Florida Fire and Security branch manager with Johnson Controls, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jonathan Fox is director of sales with Security Identification Systems Corporation (SISCO), West Palm Beach, Florida.



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